Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Leafs call foul over Roberts deal

Apparently the Toronto Maple Leafs were none too pleased with the fact the Florida Panthers chose to deal Gary Roberts to Pittsburgh rather than his former team, something the local media picked up on quickly yesterday after talking to a seething GM John Ferguson.

Today, the Panthers are saying there was no spite intended with the deal and that they, in fact, simply liked the player (Noah Welch) the Penguins were offering better than the package of Brendan Bell and a second- and fourth-round pick.

Now, maybe neither Bell or Welch are going to be top-flight blueliners, but I would say their relative value is reasonably close — something that has been disputed by both the Maple Leafs and many in the media here — with Welch winning out due to his size and leadership abilities.

Welch may have went the NCAA route and captained the Harvard Crimson, but that's not all that uncommon for an American defensive prospect — and it doesn't mean he's not capable of playing a big role with the Panthers. Welch is a huge kid at 6 foot 4, 215 pounds, a guy who appears to move his feet pretty well for a big man and has an offensive side to his game (as noted by the 21 points in 25 games in the AHL this season). He was also an AHL all-star.

Welch was selected a round higher than Bell in the 2001 draft, and from all accounts, has really developed quicker than expected into a potential Top 4 NHL defenceman. Bell, meanwhile, caused a stir here in Toronto when he actually made the big club and served as a suitable injury replacement. His upside, in my opinion, is negligible (which is likely why he was dealt for Yanic Perreault yesterday).

The Panthers have really started to assemble quite the big, young defence core, with players like Jay Bouwmeester (6'4", 214), Bryan Allen (6'4", 220), Branislav Mezei (6'5", 235) and Alexei Semenov (6'6", 235), and I honestly can't understand why there's this goofy kerfuffle over them choosing Welch over Bell.

Is it really that hard to believe that a prospect from the NCAA that most people have never heard of (think 'the next Kevin Bieksa') is better than someone who plays for the Maple Leafs?

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7 Comments:

At 11:21 PM, February 28, 2007, Anonymous David Johnson said...

I don't know much about Welch but I do know that he couldn't beat out the likes of Alain Nasreddine, Mark Eaton, Brooks Orpik, Robert Scuderi and Josef Melichar for ice time. How good could he be?

That said, Bell isn't really going to be more than a 3rd pairing defenseman either so it can't really be said that the Leafs offer (Bell and 2nd and 4th round picks) was dramatically better.

 
At 11:22 PM, February 28, 2007, Blogger James Mirtle said...

He's big, he's from the NCAA and he's 24 years old — I think it's safe to say it's going to take a few years development before we see what Welch can do.

 
At 11:41 PM, February 28, 2007, Anonymous Conrad said...

Maybe JF was covering hiimself in case the Leafs don't make the playoffs by pointing the finger at another GM. After all, he could have had Ryan Smyth. You can rebuild, or you can push for the playoffs, but you can't do both.

 
At 12:01 AM, March 01, 2007, Anonymous Mike said...

Word around Ottawa today was that Muckler was upset with Martin as he believed JM never bargained in good fait with the Senators.

Frankly, it wouldn't surprise me at all if JM holds a grudge against Muckler and wants no part in helping Ottawa win a cup.

After all, this is the same organization that rejected an offer of Martin Havlat, Chris Phillips and Ray Emery for Roberto Luongo in favor of Vancouver's package. I realize that JM wasn't the GM with that deal, but I'm sure he had a lot of input.

 
At 12:03 AM, March 01, 2007, Anonymous Mike said...

"He's big, he's from the NCAA and he's 24 years old — I think it's safe to say it's going to take a few years development before we see what Welch can do."

And unfortunately for the Panthers, he'll be a UFA in just 3 years, so there's a chance they could develop him and proceed to lose him for nothing without receiving any of the benefit.

 
At 2:56 PM, March 01, 2007, Blogger Desdemona said...

He's big, he's from the NCAA and he's 24 years old

How does coming from the NCAA benefit him as a player? I don't see why JFJ's making any noise either, but I'm curious to know your answer to this question.

Conrad - who would Toronto have had to give up for Smyth? Since their roster has gone down considerably in age, Toronto's future looks better. Losing anyone like players like Pohl, Steen or Stajan along with more draft picks and junior prospects is too much to give up for a team that's supposed to be rebuilding.

 
At 7:23 PM, March 01, 2007, Anonymous Conrad said...

"Conrad - who would Toronto have had to give up for Smyth? Since their roster has gone down considerably in age, Toronto's future looks better. Losing anyone like players like Pohl, Steen or Stajan along with more draft picks and junior prospects is too much to give up for a team that's supposed to be rebuilding."

And I'd agree with you, if JF would just rebuild already. But he's made it clear that the goal is to make the playoffs. Otherwise, seeing what St. Louis gor for Tchuck, he could have traded Tucker. Apparently they wanted Steen. I agree, it's a high price to pay, but getting Smyth might have been what Toronto needed to get over the hump. JF's only got a year left on his contract, and it won't get renewed if they miss the playoffs by three points.

 

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